Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Big Sweep Blog

Posted by , on March 7th, 2014

On 27 February Mustard Tree led its quarterly community litter pick, the Ancoats Big Sweep, to give the streets a much-needed makeover.

The sweep was a great success ( not just in terms of the amount of litter collected!) and we couldn’t have done it without the help of our partners Northward Housing, who contributed equipment, manpower and a very welcome cup of tea and slice of cake when it was all done.

A huge thanks also goes out to all the litter-picking volunteers for their efforts, camaraderie, and simply giving up their time to clean up a good stretch of Manchester’s streets.

As well as tackling the litter problem, the sweep is a great way for our Freedom & Dignity clients to get involved in a community-minded initiative, get active, and generally socialise.

Anyone who has travelled in Europe, and elsewhere, will quickly realise that the UK is one of the most heavily littered countries, and community-led projects like the Ancoats Big Sweep can do a great deal to reduce the problem. Keep an eye on our twitter for the next one.

If you live in an area where littering is a problem, there are a few things you can do about it:

  • Report heavily littered streets and roads to the Council, who are obligated to pick it up
  • Start your very own litter-picking initiative and get the local community involved
  • Write to your MP (using Write to Them is an easy way to do this) and ask them to introduce deposits for cans and bottles
  • Write to McDonalds and chain fast-food outlets (or even talk to local independent takeaways) about what they’re doing to combat the problem
  • Pick it up yourself (and don’t worry about the strange looks!)

(Thanks to the Litter Heroes website for these ideas)

Mentoring at Mustard Tree

Posted by , on February 27th, 2014

Benjamin Franklin once said: “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.”

Roughly two centuries later, educational theorist and social psychologist David A. Kolb was developing the Experiential Learning Model based on the idea that concrete experience is the best way for us to learn about a subject – the ‘getting involved’ that Franklin was talking about. This is in direct contrast to standard academic learning, where the main focus is on passive and reproductive learning.

Of course, people learn in different ways and benefit from different styles and approaches, but often it’s much easier with some sort of teacher or mentor who can help guide us. The beauty of a mentoring approach is that it is flexible and can be personalised for each individual. Whether it’s learning a language, keeping fit, or making decisions about our future, having time with someone who has already acquired the skills or the life experience to inform the learning process is incredibly useful. In other words, a good mentor can make a world of difference.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a personal one. In this respect, mentors can be a tremendous force for positive change and can assume many identities: role models, consultants, problem solvers or an element of a support network. One excellent but wonderfully simple definition of a mentor is “a professional friend.”

In an article for the Times Higher Education website on the power of mentors, Tom Pailama, professor of classics at the University of Austin in Texas, writes that personal interactions between students and mentors have “helped many of us figure out how we would face our lives ahead… Mentors inspire us and get inside our minds. They let us see who they are and why and how they are who they are, even when they don’t know they are doing so.”

You might well be wondering what all this has to do with a charity that helps and supports the homeless and marginalised? Well, as part of our Freedom Project, Mustard Tree runs a mentoring scheme that we believe provides an extra level of support for those on the programme. Our mentors aim to give our Freedom Project participants the guidance and encouragement that will help them achieve their goals at Mustard Tree and beyond. They work on a one-to-one basis with mentees and, for around an hour a week, help them to achieve targets, such as learning a specific skill, maintaining freedom from an addiction or becoming more work-ready.

At the moment we have reached our capacity for volunteer mentors, so we are not currently accepting new applications. However, this situation could change at any time, and we would like to keep your details on file if you are happy with this. If so, please email with your name and a contact number.

We are  always on the lookout for “Skills Mentors” who can help our clients with employability and the job-seeking process on a less frequent basis. If you’d like to get involved with this aspect of Mustard Tree, then get in touch with Johnny Bushell at or call him in 07971 859426.

By supporting the Freedom Project in this way it is very likely that you’ll make a positive difference in someone’s life and, like Tom Palaima wrote, that person will remember you as someone who helped them face their life ahead.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask


Ready For Work Club

Posted by , on February 21st, 2014

The controversial Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street has its detractors, and rightly so. It feeds into the stereotypes many people have about benefits claimants and misrepresents true conditions. However, in the third episode of the series it showed young father Mark reluctantly going to a work readiness club held at the local church. Albeit briefly, it gave a small glimpse into how those who have had very few jobs or have been long-term unemployed might feel.

Mark’s behaviour seemed indicative of many people in his situation: low self-esteem, a fear of being different to those in his community, assumptions that there were no jobs and that he would be instantly rejected, and a near inability to think of any life-achievements to put down on a CV. His frustration is evident when a volunteer, looking for work himself, tries to push him to consider his skills. And Mark, though he has plenty of pressures, is not homeless, at least.

So, imagine the bigger picture for a moment: the challenges that face even confident job-seekers, people who completed secondary or even higher education. Then take into account how difficult it must be for someone who has had little or no experience of work to jump through all the hoops required for securing a job these days: searching for vacancies, writing a cover letter and CV, filling out applications, passing tests, interviews and assessment days. Furthermore, think about trying to find work while having no fixed abode or living in temporary accommodation.

It’s for that reason that Mustard Tree runs our Ready for Work Club. Founded in September 2011 and run in partnership with Business in the Community, this weekly club teaches current volunteers skills ranging from good interview techniques and CV writing to basic IT skills and online application help. It brings together job-hunters so they can build contacts and share experiences. Mustard Tree and BITC staff, as well as our dedicated skills mentors, aim to improve our clients’ employability in an environment that helps to foster feelings of self-worth. It also helps to prevent job-seeking from becoming the isolating experience it can frequently feel like.

We also realise that just improving someone’s ability to look for and secure a job is only part of the challenge. That’s why we also run plenty of schemes that are designed to encourage a sense of community and help people to develop more than just work skills. Whether it’s our Electronic Music Production Course or our art workshops, our clients have opportunities to be creative and discover unrealised potential.

As John Studzinski, former chairman of Business Action on Homelessness, says about homeless people dropping out of work after six months. “They had a job, they were reasonably integrated into their working environment, but they were living alone in bedsits, which they found as socially disconnected as the earlier environment in shared hostels.”

At Mustard Tree we provide the foundations so that, hopefully, this doesn’t happen. To find out more about how we support the homeless and try to rebuild lives, take a look round our site where, if you feel moved to, you can also make a donation. If you’re a business, perhaps you can donate some time or skills to those looking for work as part of our Corporate Support program?

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

The Big Sweep – Ancoats

Posted by , on February 19th, 2014

Big Sweep Poster

Music Production course

Posted by , on February 13th, 2014

“It’s like Blade Runner with lasers!” exclaims one of the attendees as a futuristic bass line sounds over the monitors.

I’m at Mustard Tree for the third instalment in a 10-week-long Electronic Music Production Course, and this week it’s all about ‘Effects’. In a small room towards the back of the art studio at the charity’s base in Ancoats, we’re about to get to grips with flange, chorus, delay, envelopes, filters, cut-offs, and much more. There’s a lot to get through in two hours.

A hip-hop drum beat loops around and around, a product of the last two sessions where the guys have been introduced to the software, virtual instruments, and percussion. They’ve got the backbone of a track down and now it’s time to start giving it some texture. One by one, they twiddle virtual knobs, manipulating the sounds of the cymbals, bongos, and other instruments. It’s taking shape nicely.

This course is just one of Mustard Tree’s many projects that have been spearheaded by artist and Creative Programmes Manager Graham Hudson. Before the course begins, we chat briefly about the positive impact music can have, both making and listening to it, and the way it differs to art in making a more visceral connection with its audience – he tells me about the life-changing experience he had when he first listened to Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland as a 9-year-old.

While Graham is understandably hopeful about the impact this course will have on the participants, he explains that it was born from tragedy.

The music studio is named after James Hardy, a former client of Mustard Tree who sadly took his own life. He was a talented guitarist and Graham reminisces about how he used to sit in the art studio and play while others painted. The studio’s equipment was left to the charity as a legacy in his memory. The plan is for Mustard Tree’s clients to learn the skills needed to make their own music on this course, before using the equipment to write, record, and even perform their own stuff. Once the track being worked on this evening is completed, it will become the first in a Mustard Tree Soundcloud account. Graham also tells me of the plans to expand into a much larger studio downstairs in the future with involvement from Manchester University.

The setup they’ve got already is envious enough. There’s some state-of-the-art equipment: a Mackie mixing desk, Genelec monitors, an Oxygen midi keyboard. I also spy two condenser mics in the corners of the room that will come into play when the group get around to recording vocals. The quality of the sounds they can produce will undoubtedly be top-notch.

“It’s better than what I’ve got at home”, confesses Geoff McGuire. Geoff is the man responsible for teaching the course – he has a passion for deep house and, from what I can see, a passion for sharing his knowledge of producing music with others.

For Geoff, making music had been nothing more than a hobby; a hobby that nonetheless saw his music recognised by some big players in the industry under his pseudonym of Stonedove. He fell back in love with producing around 8 months ago and it was by chance that his expertise and Mustard Tree have ended up benefitting each other. As a project manager for Barclays, Geoff was involved in a Make A Difference (MAD) day that saw his team renovating part of Mustard Tree’s premises. He got chatting to Graham, who mentioned the music studio, and a partnership was born.

Geoff was originally a traditional kind of producer, suspicious of virtual instruments and sceptical that they could sound as good as the real thing: “It feels like cheating, you know?” But he soon came round to the idea. And it’s easy to see why. Having an army of keyboards would be expensive and take up too much valuable space. Watching the participants loading up synth after synth and playing about with the pre-sets as Geoff guides them, it’s fantastic to see the sheer variety of sounds they come out with. The nodding of the heads as the beat takes hold and the smiles when someone comes up with a nice hook or weird sound make it worth coming along.

Geoff has compiled some impressively detailed handouts for each week that explain how to use the software and give a professional quality to the course. And as he takes us through compression, bit-crushing, and quantising, there’s no doubt in my mind that after 10 weeks of this, I’d be well on my way to having a good shot at making songs of my own.

For anyone who’s interested in making music, this course is a hidden treasure, and a chance to socialise with people from all walks of life. As Graham and I say before we start, there’s really nothing like music to bring people together.

The Electronic Music Production Course takes place every Monday from 7-9pm. If you’re interested in taking part, get in touch with Graham on 0161 228 7331 or email him at

MEN Wish Campaign

Posted by , on February 11th, 2014

Towards the end of last year Mustard Tree took part in the Manchester Evening News’ Wish Campaign.

Each year the MEN runs the campaign to give local not-for-profit organisations the chance to receive a share of £25,000. Tokens were printed in the newspaper every day between 2 October and 30 November, with readers asked to collect and send them to their favourite nominated charity. The more tokens organisations received, the greater their share of the money.

Mustard Tree were lucky to receive ‘votes’ and submitted our tokens in January. Since then we’ve been waiting expectantly for the results. As in previous campaigns, there were hundreds of community groups involved; you can find a map of the entrants here. Last year’s top ten included Animals in Distress, St Ann’s Hospice, and Out There Supporting Families of Prisoners.

This time round, Mustard Tree were in good company as some of the region’s most enterprising and deserving charities took part, from Gorton-based Mancunian Way to Salford Heart Care.

We would like to say a big thank you to those who collected the tokens on our behalf, you helped us raise £124.94, which will go toward building our Health & Wellbeing Suite.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

The Empty Shop Collects 2 Tonnes of Clothes

Posted by , on February 6th, 2014

Sunday saw the end of The Empty Shop project in Manchester Arndale. The charitable concept was an innovative take on the traditional clothing drive and asked the public to donate pre-loved clothes that will be given to those in need, distributed to other charities or sold to raise money for Mustard Tree to help fund our life changing training programmes.

From individuals to businesses, Mancunians showed their generosity over 10 days, with the shop collecting 7500 individual items of clothing from 265 different donors. The weight of all these clothes came to a staggering two tonnes. To put that into perspective, that’s a weight equivalent to a large hippo or a small elephant seal!

Guess Who Fashion PR, who were in charge of handling press and publicity, asked one brand a day to donate clothing to the shop. On the press launch, Manchester-based clothing brand AKA kicked things off by gifting 1000 items with a total retail value of £20,000. Simply Be and the Northern Quarter’s Menikmati were two more of the philanthropic businesses to take part in the clothing drive.

It wasn’t only those in the fashion world who donated clothing. Northwards Housing, a not-for-profit organisation that manages around 13,000 council homes in North Manchester, also donated a huge 30 bags of clothes.

After only five days, the response was overwhelming: 100 donors had come down and one tonne of clothing had been received. The photo wall quickly filled up with polaroids of the generous people who gave away their items. There was a team of helpers, including stylists who created the most eye-catching ensembles from the wealth of clothes. Fashion blogger and self-confessed ‘style enthusiast’ Laura McMahon lent her expertise, while FashionStylist.ME, a bespoke agency for fashion industry professionals, sent Gemma Harrison, Hannah Gabriel and Laura Sellers to style the mannequins.

Terry Jones from Manchester City Council pointed out how augmenting the standard charity shop formula helped reach a wider audience: “It’s a fantastic idea. It captures a market that wouldn’t normally donate to charity. It’s high profile because of where it’s situated. It’s for a worthy cause.“ The Empty Shop’s aim is partly about increasing donations, but it is also a way of raising awareness of the issues face by the poor and homeless of Manchester and beyond.

Speaking for Mustard Tree, our very own Soraya said, “I was overwhelmed with the response we had from it and am humbled at Manchester’s generosity! I had such a brilliant time as I got to speak to people about the great work we do and reach people we wouldn’t normally have reached.” The project will, hopefully, have given more people an idea of the work that Mustard Tree does in the community and how necessary these types of organisations are.

One donor, Darren from EAT, was a former client of Mustard Tree and a shining example of how much of a difference charitable institutions can make. Darren, who used to be homeless but is now graduating through EAT’s Manager Programme, said: “I’m a trainer now and doing brilliantly. I go to the shop everyday! Donate every month! Mustard Tree helped me back on track. What happened to me proves that homelessness can happen to anyone, as the primary cause was losing my job.”

Without the dedication and help of Clarke Gough (who built the pop-up shop), Guess Who PR and Manchester Arndale, The Empty Shop couldn’t have achieved what it did. Mustard Tree is extremely grateful for all their hard work and of course, a huge thanks goes out to all the wonderful donors and volunteers who filled the shop and made it look great each day!

Next year, let’s try to smash the record set by the original Empty Shop in Sao Paulo – 3.2 tonnes. Thanks again to all those who made the very first Empty Shop a success.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

The Empty Shop

Posted by , on January 21st, 2014

There are just a couple of days to go now before the Empty Shop project begins in Manchester’s Arndale Centre.

Starting on Thursday 23 January, for the first time in the UK, the concept will bring a unique way of donating clothing to charity over a ten-day period. In a subversion of the traditional shopping process, The Empty Shop works on the principle that the public “bring clothes to the shop instead of taking them from the shop”, according to a promotional video.

A novel approach to giving to charity, the concept is very simple: donate; style-up; empty. People contribute their pre-loved clothing, which is then displayed by the shop’s team of stylists and fashion bloggers. At the end of the day, the clothes will be taken over to Mustard Tree, where they will be distributed to those in need, given to other charities, or sold in our shops.

A collaboration between Mustard Tree, shop and bar fitters Clarke Gough, and Manchester Arndale, The Empty Shop is a Mancunian take on an idea pioneered in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The VillaLobos shopping mall was originally home to ‘A Loja Vazia’ (Brazilian for The Empty Shop), which, in attempting to reinvent the clothing drive, managed to collect 3.2 tons of clothes for charity.

Loducca, the ad agency behind the initiative, also open-sourced the project by making available the shop’s blueprint, key visuals and communication packs so that “anyone who wants to spread goodwill” can use the idea. That’s where Clarke Gough came in; they have been building the wooden pop-up shop over the past few weeks which will be set up on the ground floor, outside Next of Manchester Arndale on Wednesday night, ready for the launch on Thursday.

Mustard Tree extends special thanks to Ben Davies of Clarke Gough, whose dedication to getting the project off the ground has been inspirational. It was Ben who approached Mustard Tree about getting involved, negotiated with Manchester Arndale to provide a free space, and arranged PR for the shop, after seeing the video about the very first Empty Shop.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Ben aimed to dispel any confusion about how the project will work: “You don’t buy the clothes, they get donated by the public each day, displayed in the shop and then the shop gets emptied every night. The clothes are the spectacle and act as a form of exchange to bring people closer to the issue. We think that’s more engaging than asking people for money.”

Mustard Tree is privileged to be in such esteemed company and part of such a great scheme which will raise awareness about homelessness, clothing drives, and the necessity of charity. Here’s hoping the people of Manchester will show their generosity in donating clothes over the ten-day period.

During the shop’s short lifespan you can keep up with what’s going on using the social media handles below:
Twitter: @EmptyShopMCR Facebook: /EmptyShopMCR Instagram: EmptyShopMCR

Written by Jamie Faulkner, Firecask

Hope 2014, Pray Love Manchester and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Posted by , on January 13th, 2014

Nights of Prayer for the Poor January poster-page-001

The Empty Shop

Posted by , on December 20th, 2013

Manchester Arndale 23 January – 2 February 2014

This winter, Manchester is proud to announce a new and exciting charity fashion collaboration ‘The Empty Shop’.

‘Donate. Style-up. Empty’

Coming to the UK for the first time, January 2014 will see an award winning open source project brought to you by Mustard Tree, Clarke Gough and Manchester Arndale. This innovative fashion and charity project will create a greater awareness of homelessness in the Manchester area.

“The Empty Shop’ will stand proud within Manchester Arndale for a ten day period. With this amazing concept, we will see the general public donate pre-loved clothes to fill up the Empty Shop. Fashion bloggers, Stylists and fashion faces will be transforming the store with show stopping looks made from the donations. Every evening the store is emptied and the clothes go onto help those in need this winter. Then the next day, we start over again!”

Mustard Tree will not only be distributing the clothes across the city, but selling good quality pieces in our own stores to raise money to help fund programmes that are working directly on the causes of homelessness in Manchester. Adrian Nottingham, CEO of Mustard Tree said, “Mustard Tree is delighted to be participating in this innovative project. We are proud that Manchester is taking a lead in seeking to broker practical solutions and raise awareness of the plight of the increasing number of its residents facing homelessness and marginalization”. 

Throughout the ten days not only will people be able to donate alongside famous fashion faces and fashion brands, but they can also be part of a new chapter, bringing charity and fashion together!

Launching the 23 January 2014 at 2pm with a press, media and celebrity launch, we will see the first donations and pieces being displayed within The Empty Shop. All core partners to the event will be present to show their support including Shop fitters Clarke Gough, Mustard Tree and Manchester Arndale. This project is supported by Manchester City Council.

For any more imagery, press information or details please contact Guess Who PR via For a sneak peak at the project from Loducca in São Paulo, watch this video!

Twitter: @EmptyShopMCR Facebook: /EmptyShopMCR Instagram: EmptyShopMCR